Yoga Workshops – Sunday 13th October

Join us for our October Yoga workshop day at Westbourne Hall on Sunday 13th October at Westbourne Road, West Kirby, CH48 4DQ

We will have a full day of Yoga from 11:00 till 17:00.

In the morning (11:00 till 13:30) we will have an inversions workshop looking at;
* Foundations & strength building for inversions, e.g. headstand & handstand
* Safe practice tips for shoulder stand and plough poses
* Gaining confidence in your practice using a staged approach
* The chance to go upside down with teacher assistance! (optional!)

In the afternoon (14:30 till 17:00) we will have a partner yoga workshop where we will look at;
* Tips and tools for improving balance
* Practicing balancing poses alone and with a partner
* Working with a partner to develop your balance
* Have some fun!
You do not need to bring a partner to come to this workshop!

Cost : £37 for both workshops or £20 per workshop

(non refundable unless space can be filled) – Please book early as places are limited, you can pay at one of our weekly classes or by BACS. Please email us at enquires@yogasmiths.org or send us a Facebook message to book your place.

Please bring with you a packed lunch and a blanket. We have use of the kitchen at Westbourne Hall for teas and coffees and to heat any food you bring. There will be a long table for us to sit at and eat our lunch together.

You may wish to bring your own yoga mat and props, however, we will have plenty for people to use.

There are a good number of places in West Kirby where you could purchase lunch should you not wish to bring a packed lunch.

Westbourne Hall has a free car park with plenty of parking spaces.

We are British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance trained teachers, fully insured through the British Wheel of Yoga.

You get two friendly teachers which ensures safe practice and plenty of attention and modifications are offered so that the classes are inclusive for all abilities.

Please check out the event on our Facebook page;
https://www.facebook.com/events/376596526351229/

We look forward to guiding you through your yoga practice.

Paul & Steve Yogasmiths

A Great Start to the BWY Gentle Years Yoga National Research Trial

Hi Everyone, some of you may be aware that we are taking part in an exciting trial around our chair based Gentle Years Yoga class. Here is an article written by Laura Bissell who, along with Jenny Howsam created Gentle Years Yoga;

On  30th June, nine northern BWY Gentle Years Yoga (GYY) teachers met at the Principal Hotel in York for the first Standardisation Training Day in preparation for September’s launch of the NIHR Research Trial classes. The next Standardisation Day will be on 23rd November in Birmingham for research teachers involved in the second wave of classes in 2020 to take place in the southern half of England and Wales.

Laura Bissell and Jenny Howsam opened the day with a yoga centering session, followed by inspiring talks from Chief Investigator Dr Garry Tew and Professor Tim Rapley from Northumbria. Trial Manager Helen Tilbrook, Trial Coordinator Shirley Paul and Research Fellow Laura Howe from York went through the formal process that would be used to recruit patients from GP surgeries and the procedures the yoga teachers would need to follow in order to set up the classes. 

“It was good to hear that the research so far has shown that yoga might be a useful ‘intervention’ with the ability to address multiple health conditions at the same time, simply and at low cost to the NHS’ said BWY teacher Rachel Bayliss from  Chesterfield.  ‘As yoga teachers, we may feel we already ‘know’ this but if this Trial can prove this, then it may lead to more funding and more support for yoga teachers wanting to offer these classes.”

After lunch, Jenny and Laura taught modifications required for a new Age-Related Condition section of the training in response to GPs’ suggestions for inclusion in the Trial and they covered yoga sequences that teachers’ course plans would need to follow for research standardisation and consistency.

“Undertaking the training was a fantastic CPD decision.  The training is inspiring and imaginative and equips you to create your own interesting and layered chair-based yoga sessions’ said Yogasmiths Paul Smith and Stephen Smith from Merseyside.  ‘We have been amazed at the change in the people who attend our classes. People with degenerative disease regain strength in their legs and improve their sitting to standing, those with lung diseases have reported their lung capacity checks have shown good improvement from the breathing exercises, but the most profound change is the mental health of the attendees. Some have reported that the GYY class is the highlight of their week.  It is lovely to watch the friendship groups forming.  They rally around in support of one another.”  

Clare Gardner from Merseyside summed up the day, “l thought the Standardisation days was useful, fun and informative. It was a great day. “

Celia Grieve from Ripon reported “It was so good to meet the other Research Teachers and the organisers of the Trial.  It answered all the questions I had about delivering the classes.  The whole team are enthusiastic and excited about taking this forward.”

“It felt as though the Trial will make an important transformational change’ Stephanie Braysmith from Beverley expressed.  ‘Hopefully one which will spread throughout the whole of the U.K.” 

Mental Health Awareness Week 13th – 19th May 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week for 2019 has the theme of Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

Their website (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week) defines this as;

‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.

Body image concern itself is a relatively common thing to experience and is not in itself a mental health issue. However, it can be a contributing factor to mental health problems.

Whereas body satisfaction has been linked to better overall wellbeing and eating habits.

We live in a society that has become more and more fixated with the outwards image of the body. Social Media is awash with picture of people with what some people would view as the “perfect” body and lifestyle. Social Media has made so many people use their social media accounts as if they are celebrities and in doing so sharing edited highlights of their lives in an attempt to show the world that their life is perfect. Social Media is completely fixated with the external, both image wise and also in engaging with the external world, trying to obtain followers and get “likes”.

How does Yoga help us navigate our way through all of this?

As we have said many times in our yoga classes, Yoga is a work in not a work out. Yoga is about internalising our awareness via breath work, posture practice and relaxation / meditation. In doing so we realise that our true self is not our physical body, our true self is not the chatter of our minds. Our true self is deeper again and is the quiet place beyond the chatter of our mind, a place where we can find contentment, acceptance and calmness.

The Pancha Maya Kosha model detailed in the Upanishads sets out a model of the true self being encased in 5 wrappings that prevent us seeing through to the self. The outer most layer is the physical body and people can be stuck here and fixated with their physical ability and / or appearance. This philosophical model tells us that whilst we are stuck in the physical we will not progress to reveal the true self and the peace / calmness that comes with it. We are much more than our reflection in a mirror, an obsession with the reflection prevents us from seeing through the mirror to the deeper layers of ourselves.

Some factors that impact how you relate to your own body image are your family, peer group, pressure to look a certain way and social media. From a personal perspective, as someone who has worn glasses from an early age, I was quite self conscious of my glasses which is only natural. However, people said to me on a number of occasions, when I was in my teens, if I took my glasses off, “Oh you are handsome without your glasses on.” The inference that I made here is that I was obviously not handsome with my glasses on! This is something that certainly affected my confidence somewhat. However, with positive role models wearing glasses in music and the media as I grew older I embraced my glasses and enjoyed wearing them!

Scruffy mod circa 1997

Another personal experience growing up was that I loved sixties music and mod culture. I bought (and still own!) vintage scooters, a parka and desert boots. Once I had decided I was a mod then there was self inflicted pressure to conform to a certain style and look. However, I’ve always been a little on the scruffy side so it probably wasn’t the ideal thing to get into! When attending scooter rallies and mod nights I felt like I didn’t fit in because I was not quite so fastidious with how I looked. It is interesting to reflect how we strive to fit in when we are younger, trying to find the hobbies or groups that we can relate to and identify with. Body image is intrinsic to this idea of fitting in and how we portray ourselves to the outside world.

The health and fitness industry is probably one of the biggest purveyors of images of the “ideal” body, second only to the fashion industry. Magazines and social media are full of pictures of men and women with bodies that require an unhealthy addiction to the gym and the taking of ridiculous amounts of supplements. Pictures of people with six packs abs and veiny muscles don’t explain that the models are mostly in dehydrated states in order to look “optimal” for the photo shoots. The yoga world is the same, often using pictures of people with extreme hyper-flexibility or natural gymnasts as their pin-ups. This puts many people off yoga – how often we hear “I can’t do yoga I’m not flexible enough”! It also encourages some yoga practitioners to push themselves too far and to try to achieve ranges of motion that are far outside that which is normal and some would argue, healthy.

My own personal experience through Yoga has been to find a much happier relationship with my own personal body image. Yoga allows us to turn our attention inwards and to let go of our self-critic which drives negative body image. When we practice mindfully we obtain greater body awareness, listening to our own bodies, accepting all of our limitations and abilities in the same way. We can come to realise that the life force / essence of the self that it within you is the same as that which is within others. We learn that we are ok just as we are. With this acceptance we often find that we then make healthier decisions for ourselves and appreciate our bodies more, gaining a healthy relationship with your own body image.

Namaste – Paul

World Book Day 2019 – Svadhyaya (self-study)

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali one of the 8 limbs of Yoga are the Niyama (limb number 2). These are five virtuous behaviours that Patanjali recommends that we cultivate in ourselves. The 4th Niyama is Svadhyaya which translates as self-study.

There are two elements to this idea of self-study. There is the study of the self and there is self directed study. As today is World Book Day I am going to discuss the later.

Svadhyaya as self-directed study is the reading of books that will enrich our lives and allow us to develop in a positive way. This is very much in line with what we would call “life-long learning’.

It is the study and reading of texts / films or documentaries that will enrich our lives and increase our knowledge of ourselves. Modern research has shown that continuing to learn new things late into life can in some cases help to fend off dementia and cognitive decline.

In his book Samadhi, Gregor Maehle interprets Svadhyaya as prioritising the desire to answer the following questions;

  • Who are we?
  • What is our true identity?
  • What is the purpose of our life?

Svadhyaya has quite a life changing implication here around our consumption of such things as newspapers and television. Are we watching television programmes that inspire us and enrich our lives or do we use television as “chewing gum for the eyes”? Are we reading newspapers that educate us or do they instil us with fear of the world? Svadhyaya is mindful consumption of television and media, being aware of how such things make you feel.

Over the years I have reduced my consumption of television dramatically, only choosing to occasionally watch documentaries and films. This has had a positive effect for me, I became aware that often certain television programmes left me feeling annoyed, frustrated or down. Removing this source of negativity can have an uplifting effect on your general mood. This all comes down to mindfulness and having a greater awareness of how such things make you feel. I have found more time to read books and to undertake study. I have always found books to be a rich source of inspiration not just philosophical books or yoga books but also biographies. Biographies can give us a good insight into other peoples experience of life, this can help us foster feelings of empathy and compassion allowing us to put ourselves in the place of the author.

I have always enjoyed reading and this is something that my parents encouraged in me as a little boy. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money but my parents always bought me a new book when I had read my current one. Mum would take me down to Chapter One bookshop in West Kirby and would pick a Willard Price adventure book. These books transported me to exotic lands and exciting adventures and gave me a desire to travel when I was older.

I also loved Enid Blyton. Newton Post Office had a selection of children books and I would love looking at the selection of Famous Five titles. I read some of the Secret Seven books but my favourites were the Famous Five. The escapades of the five and Timmy the dog had me enthralled. Their adventures on Kirin Island felt almost possible for me with Hilbre Island sitting in the estuary. I remember my Dad telling me that smugglers used to use Hilbre Island and this made it all the more exciting and real!

When I was 7 years old we got a lovely little dog called Sandy and she was my “Timmy the dog” from the Famous Five stories. We would have lots of adventures in the fields around Newton, finding dens and watching foxes, rabbits and hares. This sense of exploration and interest in life and nature came directly from the books that I read.

This interest in books and knowledge stayed with me into adulthood and is a continuing gift that my parents gave to me by providing me with books as a child and by taking me for walks in nature.

Today is World Book Day, Thursday 7th March 2019. The impact that reading and access to books can have on a child and the subsequent adult is great. I feel that encouraging reading is as important as ever in this age of modern technology. The purpose and aims of world book day from their website are below;

World Book Day is a registered charity on a mission to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.


This is the 22nd year there’s been a World Book Day, and on 7th March 2019, children of all ages will come together to appreciate reading. Very loudly and very happily. The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. That’s why we will be sending schools (including those nurseries and secondary schools that have specially registered to participate), packs of Book Tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs (age-ranged into Nursery/Pre-School, Primary and Secondary) full of ideas and activities, display material and more information about how to get involved in World Book Day.

From www.worldbookday.com

Support World Book Day in any way that you can, it is a fantastic initiative!

Here is a link to the World Book Day website where there are lots of great resources;

https://www.worldbookday.com

CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER – Pop-up Sunset Beach Yoga – Friday 13th July 2018 at 8:15pm – Red Rocks, Hoylake

Hi everyone

Just a quick note to let you know that we are holding our next Pop-up yoga session on Friday 13th July at 8:15pm at Red Rocks, Stanley Road, Hoylake. This will be a lovely yoga session, timed so that we can practice yoga with the setting sun and enjoy the final moments of the sun after our guided relaxation. 

The weather forecast looks good and we have checked the tide times!!

We will meet at the end of Stanley Road, Hoylake at the gate which leads on to the beach at 8pm for an 8:15pm start down on the beach.

Please bring a yoga mat if you have one, some water, and a blanket / jumper for relaxation as it will get cooler as the sun goes down. Some yoga mats will be available on the day if you need to borrow one.

We will be teaching a traditional Hatha Yoga class with a breathing exercise, postures and a nice guided relaxation to finish. The cost for the class is £5 for adults and £3 for under 18’s. Under 18’s bus the accompanied by an adult and you must bring consent forms which can be found on our website here;

https://yogasmiths.org/student-resources/

Here is a link to the event on our facebook page;

https://www.facebook.com/events/201749497202325/

If you check out the comments on the Facebook event there are further details of where we will meet including pics and a map. 

We look forward to seeing you there! 

Namaste

Paul and Steve
Yogasmiths

Congratulations to our Duke Of Edinburgh Award Yoga Students!

We have been delighted to have been able to introduce yoga to a group of young women completing the Duke of Edinburgh award via our weekly yoga classes.

Faith, Katie and Maisie have been regular attendees at our weekly classes to fulfil the requirements of the Duke of Edinburgh for physical activity / sport.

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They have been and continue to be regular attendees along with their friend Esme. We have been very pleased with their commitment to their yoga practice and their progression within yoga. It was with great pleasure that we were able to sign off part of their Duke of Edinburgh award as assessors and wish them good luck in completing the rest of their award.

If you are completing the Duke of Edinburgh award why not consider attending yoga classes to satisfy the Sports / physical activity requirements!

As they are all under 16 they attend with a parent / guardian and we are pleased to have 2 of their parents as regular attendees to our classes now as well! If you are interested in attending our yoga classes with somebody under the age of 16 please see the student resources tab on our website for details of consent forms that need to be completed.

Namaste

Paul & Steve

 

Please see below for information about the Duke of Edinburgh award, taken from their website;

Since its creation in 1956 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, the DofE has gone from strength to strength. Guided by the same set of principles and by young people themselves, it’s as relevant today as it was then. The DofE Award was based on Kurt Hahn’s Moray Badge, run by him while Headmaster at Gordonstoun School.

A flexible programme that helps to develop young people for life and work, the numbers speak for themselves: 93% of participants feel that DofE has helped them to work in a team and 84% feel that they have become a more responsible person.   From 1,000 DofE Awards achieved in year one to 142,961 last year, we have both a rich history and a bright future. Why not let our timeline and our young people tell you more?

The DofE has a positive impact on young people’s lives, in terms of their personal development and employability, and on wider society, from charities gaining active and engaged volunteers to businesses hiring work-ready recruits.

Demand remains high. With increasing numbers of young people wanting to take part in the world’s leading youth achievement award, it’s our ambition to give another one million 14 to 24-year-olds in the UK this life-changing opportunity by 2021.

Thanks to our fantastic team of employees and volunteers and the generous donations made by our supporters, we look forward to doing just that.

Find out more here;

https://www.dofe.org

Mental Health Awareness Week – helpful tips to deal with stress

At all of our weekly classes this week we discussed Mental Health Awareness Week and the topic for this year which is stress.

Stress has been shown to be one of the main contributory factors in triggering a mental health problem. Research has shown that two thirds of us will experience a mental health problem during our lifetime.

In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness week we decided we would start the conversation about mental health and ask our yoga students to share their tips and ways of dealing with Stress.

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We had our Stress board at all the classes and students all wrote down on a post it note what they do to deal with stress.

At the end of this week we had a mountain of post it notes with lots of helpful tips and ideas. We typed them all up and entered them into a special website of wizardry which came out with a wonderful word cloud with the most common suggestions in a bigger font. Here are the results;

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 17.40.32

The top 3 helpful suggestions were going for a walk, talking to someone and doing yoga! Have a look at the word cloud and see if there are any ideas that you may like to try next time you are feeling stressed.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our students for taking part in this activity and sharing their own personal strategies for dealing with stress. Sharing our ideas can help others and remove the perceived stigma around Mental Health. The greater our awareness of Mental Health is and the knowledge that many of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime will help those who are suffering in silence. There is no need to suffer in silence, talk and reach out. People have lots of tips and strategies that may help you too.

Paul & Steve

Mental Health Awareness Week – Mindfulness taster session for UK Bike and Go / Merseyrail – West Kirby

Thank you to all the lovely cyclists that came to our morning Mindfulness taster session. This was held on the cliffs at Cubbins Green in West Kirby. The event was organised by Merseyrail (@Merseyrail) and the UK Bike and Go (@UKBikeandgo) scheme where you can hire bicycles from train stations across the UK.

You can find further details and information on UK Bike and Go here;

https://www.bikeandgo.co.uk

We were pleased to take part in this event to highlight Mental Health Awareness week which runs from 14th -20th May 2018.  The focus this year is on stress and how we cope with it.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

Exercise such as cycling (and yoga!) and a mindful purposeful relaxation meditation practice are great tools in tackling stress and its effects.

Mindfulness of breathing and yoga breathing exercises can help reduce the stress response in the body and help us to find a calmer experience of the present moment.

Research has shown that two thirds of people experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and that stress is a key factor. Finding practices to help reduce stress and to   deal with stressful situations is a helpful way of trying to find a calmer more peaceful experience.

Cubbins Green provided the perfect setting for the guided Mindfulness relaxation session with lots of beautiful birdsong and sunshine!

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Yogasmiths Summer Yoga Retreat 15th -17th June 2018

Join us on our first summer yoga retreat! We will be at the beautiful Trigonos retreat centre (postcode: LL54 6BW) on the edge of Snowdonia on the banks of a lovely lake. You get two yoga teachers for the price of one!
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For more information about us please check out our website biographies at https://yogasmiths.org/about/
Arrival from 4pm onwards on Friday 15th June 2018
Depart at 3pm on Sunday 17th June 2018
Prices, per person: 
Single en-suite £299 
Single non-en-suite £279
Twin / double en-suite £289
Twin non-en-suite £265
Price includes full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and all retreat sessions. There will be morning coffee/tea with biscuits, afternoon tea/coffee with cake, a constant fruit bowl and tea/coffee whenever required. All food is vegetarian. Vegan and gluten free can be catered for also (please request when booking).
 
We will have a timetable of Traditional Hatha yoga, breathing practices, guided relaxation, mindfulness meditation and free time to help you unwind and relax. 
 
Places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment. Please email yogasmithsorg@gmail.com or telephone 07834268052 if you have any questions or queries. 
 
A £50 per person non-refundable deposit is required to secure booking.  
 
All details can also be found on our website at www.yogasmiths.org/retreats/ where you can also download a booking form.
 
Also find us on Facebook, instagram and twitter at the following links;
 
Thanks and we look forward to welcoming you to our retreat
 
Paul & Steve x

Our top 5 tips for balance

Following on the heels of our Mini Balance workshop at the Om Yoga Show Manchester, here are our Top 5 Tips for balance!

Balance is not just a physical element to a pose. Balance in the mind and the breath is equally as important. 

When the mind becomes agitated, so too does the body.

Breath practice (pranayama), breath-led movement in asanas, and guided relaxation can be utilised to find this balance in the mind, the body and in life

In order to find balance in your balancing asanas these five top tips are essential:

    1. Strong foundation and sthira (steadiness) – A strong, steady base in those parts of the body that make up the foundations of the pose, drawing energy up through the body from our stable foundation.                                                                      e.g. in standing balances lifting and spreading the toes, gripping the mat with the toes, weight in the heel and side of the foot, a natural arch to the foot. Active muscles in leg, micro-bend to the knees, engaging pelvic floor and core.
    1. Sukha (ease) – Finding ease and lightness in the posture. The pose isn’t stiff and adjust it whenever required. Softness in the pose and fluidity in mindful movement both in and out of the pose. Using the breath to cultivate a sense of sukha.                                                             
    1.   Drishti (focus) – Very important – focus with soft gaze on particular point e.g. The hands in Low Lunge pose (anjaneyasana). The drishti aids concentration, focus and mindfulness. Still mind = still body
    1. Satya (truthfulness) – Practise with truth, listen to your body. Use a staged approach into each posture. Use modifications and props when needed (props are for all!). Props allow us to explore what our own body’s ability is in each posture whilst aiding correct alignment. Same benefits are achieved with props e.g. using the wall to aid balance in tree pose we still gain leg strength, balance, focus and hip opening. Remember to rest when needed and ease back or release if uncomfortable. Listen to the body and make any micro-adjustments throughout.
    1. Have a try! – Don’t worry about being wobbly or losing your balance. Try to let go of attachment to the ego – self judgement/frustration. If wobbly, ease back or perhaps try previous step on staged approach e.g. Keeping toes on floor in Crow Pose (Bakasana). Can always gently release and rest when required and perhaps try again. Remember to make use of props and modifications to posture. Approach wobbliness/losing balance with a gentle smile on our faces – find lightheartedness in practising poses and in losing balance/wobbliness and trying again. Can we approach life in this way?